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Fleet of foot dot 41st Bloomsday elite men’s and women’s fields

May 4, 2017 Updated Thu., May 4, 2017 at 9:33 p.m.

Eventual winner Philip Langat took a commanding lead on Broadway to win the 40th Bloomsday last year. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Eventual winner Philip Langat took a commanding lead on Broadway to win the 40th Bloomsday last year. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

The 41st Bloomsday features what’s believed to be the race’s deepest men’s field.

The top five finishers from 2016 return, elite athlete coordinator Jon Neill, said Thursday as he introduced the field for Sunday’s 7.46-mile race.

“I always say that the course rewards experience,” Neill said.

It may not matter, though. Returning champ Philip Langat, 27, of Kenya is heavily favored to repeat. He won in 34 minutes, 26 seconds – 32 seconds faster than when he took fourth in 2015.

“He may just overwhelm the field this year,” Neill said.

The race forecast calls for decent weather. That may allow for quality times, Neill said.

Langat is coming off a second-place finish last month at the World’s Best 10K in Puerto Rico. Neill said the race features one of the most competitive and deepest fields in the racing circuit.

“He comes in great fitness and ready to roll,” said Neill, who annually handicaps the men’s and women’s elite fields.

Neill believes another Kenyan, Isaac Mwangi, 23, may be poised to challenge Langat. Mwangi finished runner-up by 12 seconds last year.

Mwangi has won back-to-back titles at the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco.

Neill believes a pair of Ethiopians, Teshome Asfaha, 21, and Deriba Merga, 36, could challenge. Of the past 23 races, though, Kenyans have won 21 times.

Ethiopian Cynthia Limo, who broke the women’s record last year in 38:03, will not be back to go for a third straight title. She had a baby in January.

Limo’s time ranks as the third fastest in world history, Neill said.

Despite Limo’s absence, Neill believes the women’s race could be the best of the elite fields.

Buze Diriba, 23, and Mamitu Daska, 33, both of Ethiopia, are two of the fastest distance runners around.

Diriba is coming off a 5K victory last month in Boston where she beat 12K world record holder Molly Huddle. Daska has won nearly every big name road race in the country.

They ran against each other once. That occurred at the Cherry Blossom race in early April when Diriba finished second and Daska took fourth.

“On paper, I’m convinced that these two great competitors can certainly give us one of the greatest duels in Bloomsday history,” Neill said. “Both have phenomenal bury-the-needle type speed. It’s going to be rising star (Diriba) vs. storied veteran (Daska).”

James Senbeta, 30, of Savoy, Illinois, and Tekoa native Susannah Scaroni, 25, who now lives in Urbana, Illinois, are back to defend their respective elite men’s and women’s wheelchair titles.

Senbeta is coming off finishing 11th at the Boston Marathon where the top 15 finishers were separated by 11 seconds, elite wheelchair race coordinator Bob Murphy said. Senbeta was 6 seconds out of first.

“He’s coming in really good shape,” Murphy said.

Murphy expects Josh George, 33, of Champaign, Illinois, to challenge Senbeta.

Scaroni won going away last year and that should be the result Sunday, Murphy said.

“The women’s field isn’t as deep as we’d hope it to be,” Murphy said.

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